What If Mark Twain Was Your Major-Gifts Officer?
Ground-level research for MGOs starts with very basic things like looking at which of your donors might be willing and able to make major gifts. You might do a wealth overlay on your file, then see which donors are active in civic affairs, which are board members of other organizations, and so on.
Next, tailor an action plan to each individual. What are her passions? What motivates him? What kind of attention does she respond to most positively?
Some people like attending black-tie dinners and seeing their names high up on the sponsorship list. Others want you to visit them personally. Still others are anxious for access. They want to be noticed and appreciated by the people at the top of your organization. Or they want to be asked for their input and advice. Each prospect is different. And each one needs his or her own strategy.
It takes time, and sometimes it takes investment. But it's well worth it. I knew one MGO who took a key donor on an African safari. It wasn't cheap, but because the Officer knew her prospect and had cultivated a strong relationship, the ROI was more than worth the time and money.
So, "Attention must be paid," as Willy Loman said, but it can't be faked. People know when you're being genuine and when they're getting the canned message:
"Any emotion, if it is real, is involuntary."
Building a new relationship with a prospect is just like meeting anyone you'd like to know better. Don't come on too strong, but be gently persistent — don't look for shortcuts:
"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."
At this point, Twain would probably look at his watch and start heading down the hall. But as he turned away, he'd look over his shoulder and offer one last word of advice:
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.